The Pain Holder
Is she The Pain Holder now? my therapist asks.
I recount the funeral—the house full
of dishes, the curio of salt-n-pepper shakers, little
porcelain penguins, pandas, toucans, twos of every
kind, piles of baubles and trinkets laid out for
bequeathing, the hovering swarm, the ghost cloud,
Death’s handshake. And the girl, now
grown. A glass river spilled from her
eyes, shattered on concrete at our feet. I
had to step back. I wished I could take her from
Fear’s grip. It is not right, but true.
I flashback forty years—migraines, asthma,
dislocated knees. And I want to tell The Pain Holder
that trusting in one story can fracture a spirit, a family,
a world—that she, her body, is not meant to hold
generations of disowned pain. I want her to know
I noticed our matching gold zippers.
Many Unexplainable Pains
Do you feel at home in your body? the healer asked.
I said no, but thought it sounded nice.
I examine pains by their roots.
I distrust the unexplainable.
My Poly’s actin’ up again, my grandma would say.
Poly, short for Polymyalgia: many unexplainable pains.
Poly was managed with a daily dose of Mt. Dew and
Oxy, Poly’s best friend. Little brain bamboozler,
nothing’s wrong trickster.
I was raised to make my body a temple
that was never to be entered.
I adorned it in unworthiness, understood that pain
was punishment, silent suffering the way
to righteousness. I was halfway to heaven
with asthma, Raynaud’s, dislocating knees.
Tendon fissures detached from bone,
kneecap stuck on the side of the leg, the hand
does what it must, pulls it back into place.
Knee, weight-bearer of kneel, repent, dear god.
My knees dislocate on treadmills, running downhill,
both knees at the same time, dancing. My knee dislocates
and I fall down stairs with my baby girl inside me.
Could a home in the body exist
outside a history of wounds?
Could I form some semblance of a whole?
Make my body a home from every wrecked piece?
Setting The Table
How do I show you the table I left for the table I chose
when so many in the world have no choice?
How do I say the table I created was born of hardship
when I have never known what it is to be starving?
I had become accustomed to silent screaming,
clanking silver and stolen flowers.
I had become accustomed to eating at the table
where truth is discarded for the appearance of unity.
An impossible place for love to exist. How could I stay there
and give you what I wasn’t giving myself?
This is why I left. Why I chose
a table made of weathered, reclaimed wood.
I need to feel that connection
when I rub it with beeswax,
which makes it smell like honey,
which makes our board games smell like honey.
Like a sacrament, I polish its crescent moon wine stains
and extra wear on the end where my daughter sits.
She creates the centerpiece: acorn, agate,
empty chickadee egg, crimson maple leaf.
I set each place and light a candle.
If you have sat at my table, I hope you know
you were chosen, too.
Lament For Winged Things
I walk out on the news today—
the Supreme Court’s “full-throated
unflinching repudiation” of Roe v.
Wade—I walk outside with constriction
in my throat—bitter aftertaste
like the fake lemonade I drank in my
childhood church, where a full-throated
stage angel flinched from the ache of
clipped wings, her sunken cage when
the pastor said, Breasts distract him from
his mission, her voice smaller, then she
couldn’t remember her song—like the caged
birds of Tao Dan Park losing their original
songs amid a backdrop of beauty where
the Mekong Delta runs and the lotus flower
blooms sharp white, sinking at night in
muddy water, rising pure every dawn—
I walk to the wetland where air
does not stifle, where a sandhill crane
wades, beckoning red, honey plumes in
muddy water, prodding, jutting like a
flightless bird, I walk parallel to her,
listen to our feet crunch reeds in the dirt—
I sense her readiness to lift, to leave
the ground, and without a sound
she rises and flies.
*quote from May 2, 2022 POLITICO article
Laura Rockhold is a poet and visual artist living in Minnesota. She is the inventor of the golden root poetic form and 2022 recipient of the Bring Back The Prairies Award and Southern MN Poets Society Award. Her work is published or forthcoming in: Birdcoat Quarterly, Black Fox Literary Magazine, Cider Press Review, deLuge Journal, The Ekphrastic Review, The Fourth River, The Hopper, Yellow Arrow Journal and elsewhere. She holds a BS from the University of Minnesota. Her website is: www.laurarockhold.com.